Chiropractor Chandler AZ

Intermediate and Advanced Exercises

If you are feeling comfortable with the basement exercises, consider moving on to some more challenging routines for stabilizing your core and particularly the muscles that control shoulder blade movement.

In this section, we will start with the basic plank, which is a great isometric full-body exercise for strengthening the core. You can build off of this with variants such as rows, push-ups, dips and kickbacks. We will also cover some dynamic activities for improving agility and coordination.

Basic Plank: You can perform a plank using a raised bench (easiest), on a floor mat (more challenging), or on an exercise ball (even more challenging). Side planks and reverse planks are variations on the basic prone plank that work your core muscles in different ways and challenge the scapular stabilizers to control forces at the shoulder joints.

anterior plank

The important thing to remember here is: Start low and go slow. Begin with the level of difficulty you can master with proper form. If I had a nickel for every person I see in the gym performing planks incorrectly, I’d be rich.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Keep the shoulders down and back. The tendency is to hunch the shoulders when performing a plank, especially if your core muscles aren’t quite up to the task. This is a good way to develop upper back pain. As a trainer, I will occasionally place a dowel rod on the person’s back to emphasize the line I would like to see from the head to the feet.

  2. Keep your butt in line with the rest of your body. Raising it up makes the plank easier to hold, but it won’t give you the benefits (abdominal strengthening) of doing the exercise correctly.

  3. Don’t let your middle sag. This will likely result in lower back pain.

  4. Don’t forget to breathe. The body needs oxygen, especially when performing challenging exercises.

  5. Only hold the position as long as you can with proper form. If you feel the form starting to fall apart, take a rest. You will get more benefit from multiple shorter reps than a one-minute plank during which you struggle to keep your belly off the floor.

anterior plank

Your goal should be to hold the plank with good form for one minute. If you would like to try something a little more challenging than the mat plank but not quite as difficult as the plank on the exercise ball, try raising one leg up and resting that foot on top of the other (basically a single leg plank).

When transitioning to the exercise ball, you might want to start by having somebody spot you (hold the ball until you find your balance). An alternative is to position the ball against a wall or in a corner to add some stability.

lateral planks

Side Planks: You can do side planks four ways:

  1. Balancing on an elbow and a knee.
  2. Balancing on an elbow and both feet.
  3. Balancing on an elbow and one foot.
  4. Balancing on your hand (straight arm) and one or two feet.

Once again, focus on proper form. Make sure that your hips and chest are perpendicular to the floor (not chest towards the floor or arching your back). It is especially important to maintain the proper shoulder position with side planks or you can end up in a lot of pain (and potentially a shoulder injury). You can either rest your free hand on your hip, or straighten your arm and point the hand towards the ceiling. If you are new to side planks, start with a short interval: even ten seconds will benefit you if your form is good. Work your way up to one minute.

Reverse Plank: To perform a reverse plank, begin with your legs together and straight out in front of you. Rest your upper body on your elbows. Now raise your butt up so that your head, torso and legs form a single diagonal line towards the floor. Many people find the reverse plank to be the most challenging because it involves middle back muscles we don’t use much. That’s the point: those underutilized muscles will help to strengthen and stabilize the shoulder joints. Once again, start with a short interval and work your way up to a minute.

reverser plank

Plank Rows: To perform this exercise, you need to be strong enough to hold a plank on the floor comfortably for at least a minute. Start with the basic prone plank. Grab a light dumbbell in your right hand and perform ten basic rows while staying in the plank position. Switch the weight to your left hand and repeat for a set. You can also alternate hands with each row.

one arm row part 1 one arm row part 2

Plank Kickbacks: Perform this exercise similarly to the plank rows. Instead of a basic row, substitute ten kickbacks on each side. This is a great exercise for working the scapular stabilizers and triceps.

kickbacks part 1 kickbacks part 2

Plank Leg Raises: Start from the prone plank position. Keeping your legs straight, lift the left leg off the floor, lower it and lift the right leg off the floor. Repeat a total of ten times on each leg for a set. To make this exercise more challenging, perform it on an exercise ball.

plank leg raises

Plank Ball Roll: Before attempting this exercise, make sure you are comfortable performing a prone plank on an exercise ball. This is the starting position. Roll the ball back and forth or in a circular motion to create a greater challenge for the abdominal muscles and scapular stabilizers.

plank on the ball

Tricep Dips: Tricep dips work the triceps, scapular stabilizing muscles and core at the same time. To perform a basic dip, start out seated on a low bench (a weight bench is the perfect height). You can either have your knees bent slightly (challenging), or your feet straight out in front of you (more challenging). Your hands should be next to your hips with your palms down and fingers pointed forward. Slowly raise your butt off the bench and lower it towards the floor, then lift it back up until your hips are at the height of the bench. Repeat ten times for a set. To make this exercise even more challenging, try performing the dips on an exercise ball.

tricep dip on the ball part 1 tricep dip on the ball part 2

Glute Bridge on an Exercise Ball: If you have mastered the glute bridge on the floor, you can make the exercise more challenging by performing it on an exercise ball. We recommend having a spotter the first time you try this to make sure that the ball doesn’t slip out from under you. If you don’t know somebody who can help out, place the ball against a wall to make it more stable.

glute ball bridge part 1 glute ball bridge part 2

Start by rolling out on the ball so that the ball is supporting your head, neck and upper back. Your feet and knees should be shoulder width apart. Cross your arms across your chest. Now lower your butt towards the floor and raise it back up to a table top position. Repeat ten times for a set. To make this exercise more challenging, try it with your feet and knees together. Rest one foot on top of the other to make it more challenging still. For an advanced version, perform the bridging with one foot on the ground and the opposite leg straight out in front of you.